While the aggressive new Delta variant of coronavirus is spreading rapidly across the U.S., it is “entirely avoidable and entirely preventable if you get vaccinated,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told WTOP on Wednesday.
The Delta variant now accounts for about one in four COVID-19 infections in the United States.
Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious diseases expert and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that while the Delta variant is more contagious, “fortunately for us … the vaccines — particularly the mRNA vaccines such as Pfizer and Moderna — do quite well against the Delta.”
The problem is that people who still have not gotten a jab “are going to be at considerable more risk, and that’s the reason why we’re pushing so hard to get people who are not vaccinated to get vaccinated.”
About half of U.S. adults have now been fully inoculated against COVID-19, but vaccination rates have slowed significantly, leading to wide disparities among counties, cities and states across the country.
Fauci recently told CNN that he’s worried there could soon be “two Americas” because of the rapid spread of the Delta variant, which could trigger a spike in cases in unvaccinated areas.
In response to these concerns, public health authorities in Los Angeles recently reversed their guidelines and are now urging both vaccinated and unvaccinated people to go back to wearing masks indoors, even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lifted nearly all mask requirements for vaccinated people in May.
Fauci, speaking to WTOP, skirted the question of whether it will be necessary for everyone to wear masks indoors again.
“The CDC is the one that makes that determination, and the CDC feels that we should stick by their original recommendation,” he said, adding that the agency could change its recommendations depending on how circumstances evolve.
In the meantime, Fauci said, people should not be too worried about breakthrough infections that occur in those who’ve already been vaccinated.
“When you see breakthrough infections … those are rare. You hear about them because they’re exceptions,” he said, noting that vaccinated people who do get infected usually have mild cases or are asymptomatic.
- Sign up for WTOP alerts
- Latest coronavirus test results in DC, Maryland and Virginia
- Coronavirus vaccine FAQ: What you need to know
- Latest vaccination numbers in DC, Maryland and Virginia